By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — Now that the Wild Card stuff is outta the way, it’s time to move ahead in baseball’s annual postseason party. Buckle your seatbelts for the Division Series. Yesterday, we previewed the American League contestants. Today, we’ll focus on the American League matchups.
CUBS vs. NATIONALS
Season series: Nationals 4-3
The skinny: The defending World Series champions overcame a very slow start to repeat as NL Central champions. For Washington, it was their fourth NL East crown in the last six seasons.
For what it’s worth: Only the streaking Cleveland Indians had a better second half record than the Cubs. Chicago posted the best record in the NL in the second half, which included a 15-4 spurt in the final 19 games of the regular season.
Did you know?: The Nats are still seeking their first postseason series triumph. They blew a Game 5 lead in the ninth inning to the Cardinals in 2012, they lost in 18 innings vs. the Giants in Game 2 in 2014 and they blew a 2-1 series lead against the Dodgers with back-to-back one-run losses last year.
Prediction: Call this series the Dusty Baker Invitational. For the first time since forever, all the pressure’s not on the Cubs to win. Given their dismal NLDS history, the Nationals have all it. The uncertainty of Max Scherzer (hamstring) adds even more angst to this series. I really have no feel for who should be the favorite. I’ll cross my fingers and say D.C. finally gets the gorilla off their backs in five.
DIAMONDBACKS vs. DODGERS
Season series: Diamondbacks 11-8
The skinny: The Dodgers won their fifth straight NL West division crown with baseball’s best record. They’ll be meeting an Arizona squad fresh off their 11-8 win over Colorado in the Wild Card game. Like Minnesota in the AL, the D-Backs put together a great turnaround season where they reversed their 69-93 record from 2016.
For what it’s worth: Not only did Arizona win the regular season series against L.A., they outscored them 99-71 (5.2 runs per game to 3.7), outhit them .250 to .229 in those games, and outhomered them, 32-18.
Did you know?: The Dodgers have lost four NL Division Series and six NL Championship Series since the last time they played in the World Series. During the magical year of 1988, Tommy LaSorda’s bunch, behind Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser, knocked off the mighty A’s.
Prediction: Arizona definitely isn’t afraid of L.A., and they shouldn’t be. They and the Rockies are the only teams that had a winning record against them. The Dodgers weren’t the juggernaut down the stretch that they were for most of the season. However, I think they have enough pitching that can sustain them during the series. Especially the bullpen. L.A. in four.